Ecclesiastes argues that it is impossible to distinguish between good and evil, and that one must enjoy the sweet light, but always remember not only the days of darkness that will come, but also the fact that God will ultimately judge all mortals in light of the choices they made in their lifetime.
Yakov Z. Meyer
Rain serves as a metaphor for the Torah: Indeed, although its words stem from a single source, they appear in endless variety. The relationship between the diversity of words in the Torah and its single divine source is comparable to the relationship between the diversified botanical world and its one, nourishing source of water: rainfall.
The sages depict Reuben and Hosea’s penitence as a process whose reward is to be found beyond any visible horizon. Repentance cannot erase the sin nor can it change the sinner’s life. In fact, it can sometimes even have negative repercussions for the sinner.
The approach expressed in Esdras is also the one advocated by Rabbi Eliezer, who sees the Ten Tribes’ exile as a cyclical event that will soon end, just as the night always ends with daybreak.
According to Rabbi Akiva, one must interpret a verse as it stands – without ‘external’ references, even if that means that one must bend its syntax. On the other hand, Rabbi Ishmael maintains that the singling out of oxen and donkeys is an indication that this sort of lexicon can be applied universally to other instances.
While the Mishnah presents an idyllic picture, the Tosefta presents a judicial system that is a reflection of the one operating in Yavneh after the Temple’s destruction.
Moses’ address to the nation in Deuteronomy is transformed from a demand to walk the path of righteousness to a lecture on the gap between revealed reality and its hidden meaning.
The verse from this week’s Torah portion is not rejected because its use of the pronoun ‘them’ removes any doubt that Rabbi Gamliel’s reading is metaphorical or allegorical.
Rabbi Josiah interprets this verse in an almost literal sense: We should allow God to enter our inner space. By uttering his name, we are recruiting him to guide us in our actions and help us triumph over our evil side.
Rabbi Yohanan, son of Nuri, said: 'I had complained about Rabbi Akiva and he was punished with a flogging. Yet I know that he loved me all the more each time he was beaten, as it is written, "Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee. Reprove a wise man, and he will love thee."'
The hasty construction of the Temple, without regard for the political implications, could bring about its destruction, whereas, the elders urge that it not be rebuilt immediately, the result being its eventual reconstruction.
Balaam describes the Israelite camp 'as cedars beside the waters' – however, a cedar can be uprooted. Thus, what comfort can be found in the gentile prophet's words, praising Israel's dwelling?
In the Children of Israel's journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land, the Torah describes in some detail one of the places reached: a well. What is the significance of this site?
There is a semantic parallel between the consumption of priestly gifts and divine worship in the Temple.
Why is the phrase 'I am the Lord your God' repeated in the conclusion of this week's Torah reading?
God wanted Jethro to be the medium for conveying the commandments so that a righteous person, Moses, would be dependent upon another righteous person, Jethro.
The sages conclude that God continues to dwell even in the midst of Israel’s ritual uncleanliness because he loves his people even if they have become impure.
People must learn not to emulate the actions of Boaz, but rather to show their joy when they perform the commandments so that their actions will be recorded properly in the book that will be read at the End of Days.
Now that the patriarchs’ merit no longer protects them, Israel needs a new theology that will enable hope to endure; this theology takes the form of God’s compassion.
No, replies Rabbi Akiva: God wants and does not want, is simultaneously angry and loving, punishes us but will be happy if we are liberated against his will.
The sages, fitting the episode into the reality of Jewish religious law in which they live, turn the blasphemer into a bastard, who, according to the sages’ religious legal code, may not enter the community of God.
It stands to reason that an expression of thanks should be said after the consumption and not beforehand. There is, however, a midrash in which Rabbi Ishmael says the precise opposite.
Are the various types of leprosy described in the Torah intended only for the nations of the world, that is, for those who are not the readers of the Torah?
Although the Song of Songs initially strikes fear in the hearts of the Gentiles, this epic poem reveals to them how precious the Temple is to God, and thus they decide to destroy it.
Memory and oblivion are interconnected. People begin to focus on the preservation of memory when they understand that they are beginning to forget important events.
Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem facilitated a further transformation in the system of sacrifices: the presentation of textual sacrifices - that is, offerings made in the course of studying the laws governing sacrifices.
Whereas the Torah describes how God’s glory fills the entire tabernacle, the midrash does not relate to that structure per se, but rather depicts how God’s glory fills the Torah.
Does God, the rider on the horse, reveal himself only because of the place that bears him? Alternatively, is the place dependent on God, who reveals himself there?
The imposition of a xenophobic mindset on the Bible is foreign to its spirit, and this foreignness is expressed by both Rabbi Judah and Rabbi Nehemiah, who present biblical figures whose fate merged with that of the gentiles around them.
Light emanates from Moses' face as he descends from Mount Sinai together with the two tablets containing the Ten Commandments, although he himself is unaware of the light. That light is the best indicator of the Torah's nature.